GlaksoSmithKline Lowers Prices for the Developing World

Congratulations to Andrew Witty, the Chief Executive of GlaksoSmithKline for finally putting pressure on the pharmaceutical industry to make life saving medications more readily available to places of poverty. Not only will GSK provide medicines important for poor countries, but he will work to loosen the intellectual property stranglehold which allows western drug manufacturers to have sole production rights for a period of time, over the medicines they develop. The Gaurdian reports that GSK will:

• Cut its prices for all drugs in the 50 least developed countries to no more than 25% of the levels in the UK and US – and less if possible – and make drugs more affordable in middle-­income countries such as Brazil and India.

• Put any chemicals or processes over which it has intellectual property rights that are relevant to finding drugs for neglected diseases into a “patent pool”, so they can be explored by other researchers.

• Reinvest 20% of any profits it makes in the least developed countries in hospitals, clinics and staff.

• Invite scientists from other companies, NGOs or governments to join the hunt for tropical disease treatments at its dedicated institute at Tres Cantos, Spain.

I have to admit, this all seems really great, if long over due. Witty seems to get it:

“I think the shareholders understand this and it’s my job to make sure I can explain it. I think we can. I think it’s absolutely the kind of thing large global companies need to be demonstrating, that they’ve got a more balanced view of the world than short-term returns.”

It’s about time corporate executives look beyond their annual bottom line toward promoting a world that is more equitable. It is hard to tell how much of this is purely marketing. But, hopefully, it will be a start toward pressuring big pharma toward developing business models that don’t divide the world into “us” and “them”, but instead realize that we have a stake in each other’s health and well being.


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Welcome to the Students for Global Health Equity (SGHE) blog. Published by university students, the SGHE blog seeks to explore news and issues related to global health.

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